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British Prime Minister David Cameron and Polish Prime Minister Beata Szydlo during a press conference, Warsaw, Poland, Feb. 5, 2016 (AP photo by Czarek Sokolowski).

Brexit Raises Economic and Security Fears in Central and Eastern Europe

Tuesday, June 21, 2016

BELGRADE, Serbia—The perceived threat of millions of immigrants from the western Balkans and Turkey, and the status of citizens from Central Europe living in the United Kingdom, have become touchstone issues in the British referendum on whether or not to stay in the EU. But little attention has been paid the other way, to the impact of a potential Brexit on Central and Eastern Europe, a region extending from Poland, the union’s sixth-most-populous member, to Kosovo, which has its own distant aspirations of membership.

As polling in the U.K. has showed more support for the “leave” vote, discomfort has grown in Central and Eastern Europe, both from Britain’s Euroskeptic allies already within the EU and nonmembers that have long enjoyed London’s support. In the western Balkans, concerns that Brexit could lead to the unwinding of the EU and with it the loss of a key backer of the region’s peace and development looms large. But some Euroskeptics see a “leave” vote as the potential starting point for reshaping the EU along more practical, and more geographically extensive, lines. ...

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